Sound is a commonly underrated aspect of podcasts that help illicit emotion and reflection in its listeners.
Sounds and music allow a story to smoothly develop using the elements of a good story. The voice of a character provides the listener with a mental image of the character as if they were watching them on a screen instead of just hearing a recording of their voice.
Certain sounds can add to the suspense of a narrative which ties in with how a podcast’s sounds can regulate the emotions of its listeners. Drawn out pauses can often be awkward and tend to interrupt the flow of the narrative.
Podcasts use transition music or sound effects to avoid these pauses in the conversation and to allow time for reflection. If the reflection and main idea of the piece aren’t clearly stated, it’s a good decision to insert music after a meaningful part in the podcast for listeners to use for contemplation.
Sounds aren’t only used to assist in the emotional responses and reflection of listeners, but they can also be used as a sly comedic aspect of an inquiry-based podcast. In Invisibilia’s “True You,” a tough, cold character, Tanya, encounters the voice of X, an innocent young girl in a sundress who seems to have the opposite personality of Tanya.
Before she observes Tanya’s sleep to try and encounter X, Abby Wendle, the narrator of the story, says, “So Tanya set out on a quest, and I tagged along to burrow under her wall of consciousness, or climb over it, or completely break through in order to have an encounter with X.”
Immediately after she says this, the theme song of the show “The X-Files” starts playing until Wendle sort of chuckles and says, “No, not an “X-Files” kind of encounter…” This simple pun isn’t necessarily that funny, but it sheds a little humor on an otherwise dark narrative and allows the listener and narrator to have a little chuckle together.
Casual conversation is another way for the listener and speaker to indirectly relate to one another. If a podcast had a complicated script with a lot of technical language, it wouldn’t have a very diverse or substantial audience base. A conversational tone is an essential aspect of any decent inquiry-based podcast.
Abel describes this conversational tone as the narrator “writing for the ear.” As they write the podcast’s script, they have to think about how they would speak in conversation. Short sentences are a must.
Who would want to listen to someone read a run-on sentence that makes multiple different points? No one. Writing for the ear is so important to the movement of a narrative’s plot so that it feels like the listener might as well be part of the conversation.